Tennessee school districts, parents prepare for third-grade retention law

Posted at 5:24 PM, Dec 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-15 21:26:25-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Summer school or repeating the third grade: those are the options under a new law.

The third-grade retention law goes into effect this school year.

It says if third graders don't score high enough on the reading section of the state test, they might not pass the grade.

Metro Nashville Public Schools just started sending letters to parents of third graders to make sure they're prepared if their children don't pass a state reading test.

"I may be ignorant to the news. But it was the first time that I heard about this law when I got the letter in my child's backpack coming home from school," said Michael Durham, a parent.

He said he couldn't believe what he was reading.

"That same letter included where my students — or my daughter — fall in terms of proficiency, which indicates that it's likely that she won't pass."

The law says third-graders, who score below proficient on the state English language arts assessment, will have to repeat the third grade if they don't attend summer school and/or tutoring throughout fourth grade.

"It's almost guaranteed that my child will have to go to summer school next year," Durham said.

Based on last year's testing numbers, 65% of students across Tennessee would have been required to be retained or participate in summer programs if the law had been in effect at the time.

"I'm worried that they didn't take any of the data into consideration when they passed this law," Durham said.

MNPS is encouraging parent to plan on registering their students in its sumner learning program.

For parents who think their children shouldn't be held back or have to take summer programs, the Tennessee Department of Education has an appeal process.

While only the General Assembly can change the law, the department has provided guidance related to the law to school districts that included information about a parent appeal form.

"The state of Tennessee has had a student promotion and retention law in place since 2011. During the 2021 Special Session, the Tennessee legislature updated that law to ensure that all students have the support to read and perform on grade level no later than the 2022-23 school year," department officials said.